Who doesn't love a fair? There is something about the lure of a bustling midway with its unique sights, sounds, and smells. Nothing can match the thrill of the stomach-churning rides or taking a chance at the midway games. But, the bottom line? It's all about the food. It's surely where gastrointestinal nightmares are born, but who can resist the cotton candy, ice cream and things fried that you never thought of frying?
Florida residents are fortunate to have 50 chances each year to take advantage of one of the best entertainment values around — county fairs — 51 if you count the Florida State Fair. County fairs can be found throughout Florida — from the rolling hills of the Panhandle to the sandy shores of South Florida — and they highlight the communities where they are located... making each different. Besides the midway, livestock competitions and exhibits, agricultural exhibits, arts and crafts and live entertainment provide an exciting day for the entire family.
While every county fair is unique, there are a few standouts. The Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition ranks as one of the largest and most successful fairs in the nation and attracts more than a half-million visitors every year. For over 60 years, the all-youth Southeastern Youth Fair in Ocala is where young people have showcased their 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) skills; but, one of the most popular components of that fair has to be the two-day Florida High School Rodeo, where young cowboys and cowgirls show off their roping and riding skills.
The Florida Strawberry Festival provides outstanding exhibits, low-cost nationally acclaimed entertainment... and, of course, plenty of those tasty red strawberries.
While fairs offer good entertainment value, there are a few cost-cutting measures available to save even more:
- Take advantage of advance ticket sales, often available online and at special ticket offices.
- Save a bundle on packages that include admission, ride wristbands and drink coupons. These are often only available in advance.
- Look for special offers and coupons available in newspapers, restaurants, etc.
- Take advantage of special days. Often fairs offer special admission discounts to children, seniors and special interest groups on certain days. Some days may even be set aside as free admission days for kids.
- Park at an off-site lot and ride free shuttles.
- Pack a picnic lunch or carry a few healthy snacks and a bottle of water.
Florida's fairs are held in the fall, winter and early spring. Mostly dry conditions and mild temperatures during those months allow Floridians a chance to enjoy outdoor events while giving carnival workers year-round employment.
Find a Fair
Fair dates and locations are listed below:
Central Panhandle Fair (Oct 3-8) - Panama City
Walton County Fair (Oct 3-8) - DeFuniak Springs
Northeast Florida Fair (Oct 13-23) - Callahan
Greater Hillsborough County Fair (Oct 20-23 and Oct 27-30) - Brandon
Pensacola Interstate Fair (Oct 20-30) - Pensacola
Alachua County Fair (Oc 21-29) Gainesville
Columbia County Fair (Oct 28 - Nov 5) - Lake City
Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair (Nov 2-13) - Jacksonville
North Florida Fair (Nov 3-13) - Tallahassee
Volusia County Fair (Nov 3-13) - DeLand
St. Johns County Agricultural Fair (TBA) - Elkton
Broward County Fair (TBA) - Pembroke Pines
Manatee County Fair (Jan 12-22) - Palmetto
South Florida Fair (Jan 13-29) - West Palm Beach
Polk County Youth Fair (TBA) - Bartow
DeSoto County Fair (Jan 27 - Feb 4) - Arcadia
Charlotte County Fair (Jan 27 - Feb 5) - Port Charlotte
Florida State Fair (Feb 9-20) - Tampa
Highlands County Fair (Feb 10-18) - Sebring
Hendry County Fair and Livestock Show (Feb 10-18) - Clewiston
Martin County Fair (Feb 10-18) - Stuart
Osceola County Fair (Feb 10-19) - Kissimmee
Hardee County Fair (TBA) - Wauchula
Pasco County Fair (Feb 20-26) - Dade City
Southeastern Youth Fair (Feb 18-25) - Ocala
Central Florida Fair (TBA) - Orlando
Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair (TBA) - North Fort Myers
Saint Lucie County Fair (Feb 24 - Mar 5) - Fort Pierce
Chalo Nitka Festival, Glades County Youth Livestock Show and Frontier Days Rodeo (Feb 27 - Mar 2) - Moore Haven
Florida Strawberry Festival (Mar 2-12) - Plant City
Alachua County Youth Fair (Mar 2-7) - Gainesville
Sumter County Fair (Mar 3-11) - Bushnell
Okeechobee County Fair (Mar 14-19) - Okeechobee
Bradford County Fair (Mar 7-12) - Starke
Suwannee River Fair (TBA) - Fanning Springs
Firefighters' Indian River County Fair (Mar 10-19) - Vero Beach
Collier County Fair (Mar 16-26) - Naples
Sarasota County Fair (TBA) - Sarasota
Putnam County Agricultural Fair (Mar 17-25) - East Palatka
Suwannee County Fair (Mar 17-25) - Live Oak
Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition (Mar 23 - Apr 16 - Not Open Mar 27 & 28 and Apr 3 & 4) - Miami
Citrus County Fair (Mar 27 - Apr 2) - Inverness
Levy County Fair (TBA) - Williston
Clay County Agricultural Fair (Mar 30 - Apr 8) - Green Cove Springs
Santa Rosa County Fair (Mar 31 - Apr 8) - Milton